Taking a final look at the revised Roman Canon

| Father John Paul Erickson | October 26, 2011 | 0 Comments

The following is the next in a series of articles regarding the new Roman Missal, which will be used in the United States beginning Nov. 27, the first Sunday of Advent.

We conclude our meditations on the revised Roman Canon by focusing on three sections of the newly translated prayer — the Mystery of Faith, the invocation and memorial of the saints, and that part of the prayer which we call the “final doxology.”

Mystery of Faith

At the conclusion of the words of institution, the priest celebrant currently says or sings to the congregation “Let us proclaim the Mystery of Faith.” This is a powerful acclamation, but it is not exactly what the Latin says in the typical edition of our prayers.

Rather, the Latin text simply reads “Mysterium Fidei,” that is, “The Mystery of Faith.” The new acclamation of the priest, corresponding more exactly to the Latin text, better captures the wonder of the moment, a moment in which we acclaim the substantial presence of Christ among us, the God become little, the Infinite One circumscribed in the form of a piece of bread that can be consumed. This truly is a Mystery of Faith — the vulnerability of Love Divine, made truly present in the Sacred Host and Precious Blood.

Without a doubt, the most common response of the people to this proclamation is currently, “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” This is, of course, a true statement, and it serves as a compelling proclamation of the story of salvation in Christ. However, this acclamation is not in the Latin text, and hence, will no longer be used when the new translation is implemented on Nov. 27. However, what is in the Latin text are short acclamations that speak directly to Jesus, substantially present among us in the Sacred Host:

  • “We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection, until you come again.”
  • “When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your Death, O Lord, until you come again.”
  • “Save us Savior of the world, for by your Cross and Resurrection you have set us free.”

This is a unique moment in the Eucharistic Prayer, for while the prayer as a whole is directed to the Father in and through Jesus, this particular part of the prayer is spoken to Christ himself, the Savior who will return in glory at the end of days to put to death death itself. In the Mass, Christ returns hidden. At the end of time, he will return triumphant.

Invocation and memorial

Within the Roman Canon there is a kind of triptych, a three-part meditation on the mystery of salvation and the church. In the center of this triptych stands Christ himself, made present through the words of institution and the powerful prayer of consecration. But to the left and right of Christ stand the saints of the church, those men and women who have followed the Savior and accepted his call to total self gift in love.

Prior to the words of institution, the priest celebrant remembers by name the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Apostles and many of the great figures of the early church in Rome. After the words of institution, the priest celebrant remembers by name St. John the Baptist, St. Stephen and several of the women martyrs of the faith, heroines who bear the names Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecelia and Anastasia.

The litany of these women, some of them virgins, others married, some rich, some poor, has always been quite moving to me, for it is a powerful reminder that sanctity is not dependent on age, or whether one is a man or a woman, or whether one is wealthy or in poverty. What made these disciples of Christ holy was that they said yes to Jesus and followed him wherever he went, even when that meant earthly death.

We not only remember these great saints of the church when we gather to pray the Roman Canon. We also ask them to pray for us, they who have achieved what we are still striving for — that is, perfect love of God and neighbor.

One of the truly important doctrines of the church is our belief in the Mystical Body, a connection stronger than blood that baptized believers share in and through Jesus Christ. Truly, the great saints of the early church are with us on the road to heaven, urging us on and strengthening us by their prayers.

As the Roman Canon states in reference to the prayers of these men and women, our brothers and sisters in the Lord, “we ask that through their merits and prayers, in all things we may be defended by [God’s] protecting help.”

Final doxology

All of the Eucharistic Prayers of the Latin-rite church conclude with what we call “The Final Doxology.” As the priest elevates the body and blood of Jesus Christ, he alone says or sings:

“Through him, and with him, and in him, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, for ever and ever.”

As we have stated throughout this series, the whole prayer of the Mass is directed to the Father, but always through Jesus, with Jesus and in Jesus. It is by means of our union with Christ that our salvation is effected. It is Christ who reveals the fullness of God’s life and plan to us, and it is by clinging to him that we will come to possess divine life.

And so the final doxology is a wonderful summary of the life of holiness to which we are all called.

Indeed, it is a set of instructions on how to achieve that life – we must strive to live in Christ, to walk with Christ and, indeed, to die with Christ. As Catholic Christians, we do this by making the Sacred Liturgy, and in particular the celebration of the Mass, the source and summit of our lives.

It is in this prayer that Jesus is found and followed, and hence, it is in this prayer that the Father is found and loved.

Father John Paul Erickson is director of the archdiocesan Office of Worship.   

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Category: New Roman Missal